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Saturday, 26 August 2017

Manchester United vs Leicester City post match

      Another match day, another three points for Jose Mourinho and Manchester United. Don't get me wrong, we made hard work out of it but in the end it is the result that matters. With City winning their game deep into injury time, we absolutely had to beat Leicester. We started the game like we did last week but the goals just didn't seem to come. However, both of Mourinho's substitutes scored to give us a 2-0 victory and send us back on top of the table. Rashford scored from a corner and Fellaini scored from a Lingard assist in the 82nd minute which gave Lukaku, who had missed a penalty earlier on, some breathing space.
     We dominated the game from the first whistle to the final whistle and constantly pressed Leicester while playing in their half for almost the entire game. Despite missing chances in the first half, the morale was high in the second half. We fed on the mistakes made by their fullbacks - Simpson and Fuchs, for our build-up play. The morale first seemed to dip when Lukaku's penalty was saved by Schemichel, who was having a great game himself. Soon after, Mkhitaryan picked up an unnecessary yellow card and the heads seemed to drop. While glimpses of last season's horrific home draws began to resurface, Jose nonchalantly brought on Rashford who scored less then three minutes later. His other two substitutes, Lingard(assist) and Fellaini(goal) contributed in making the scoreline more in proportion to the team's performance. 

      One highlight of our performance is our backline. Valencia, Bailly, Jones and Blind have been immense at the back and we're yet to concede a goal this season and we haven't conceded a goal at home since April. This defense is, as rivals would say, annoyingly Mourinho. They may not be the best in the league, let alone the world, but the way they're managed makes all the difference. Jones and Bailly doing all the out-muscling and interceptions while Valencia whips the crosses and Blind marks the rival's target man, in today's case - Mahrez. I've often complained about Blind that he always chooses the easier option but today he had a great game. Seamlessly made those forward runs and played crosses in their box. His crosses weren't good at all but that's a discussion for another day. As we know, Mourinho is a defense minded manager and our defense at the moment is a well oiled machine. And with Matic playing in front of the back four, it adds the extra protective layer that further reduces De Gea's work. 

      The next highlight has got to be Pogba. As abundantly stated before, in this market, Paul Pogba looks like an absolute bargain. He had yet another brilliant game and came close to scoring on multiple occasions. The fact that Pogba had a great game today is saying something because the rest of our midfield seemed deflated by the 60th minute. The balls from midfield weren't reaching Lukaku who kept throwing his arms in the air in disappointment. In the midst of all this, Pogba tirelessly collected the ball from our centre backs and kept playing them forward. Along with attacking duties, he did not miss out any defensive commitments. This goes to show that maybe, his perfect position is in the midfield pivot alongside Matic. 

      I did have one tiny concern, that our front four - Martial, Mkhitaryan, Mata and Lukaku, weren't gelling well with each other. Many a time, Lukaku made his run but their was no through ball which would end up rendering him offside and hence remove a key player from our build up. On the other hand, Lukaku unselfishly helped in the build up, instead of pointlessly disappearing like how he did against Swansea. 

      So, that's 3 wins out of 3, 10 goals and 0 conceded. These numbers are tempting but is it too soon to get happy? Of course it is. Even last season we were cruising until the first international break came along and then we just collapsed. The tough fixtures are a while away and this is the best time to build some momentum but let's not get carried away. The season is long and rough but the best thing is that we have a competent manager and a competent squad with plenty of depth. Today's game turned out to be a test of character in some ways and I'm glad we've passed it. So for now, onto Stoke!

Thursday, 24 August 2017

Manchester United vs Leicester City Match Preview

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Jose Mourinho has an exceptional record of winning the league in his second season at a club but the players are taking each game as they come and are trying not to get ahead of themselves. There is no doubt that Manchester United have looked like the stand out team in the league so far, but it's important to remember that we are only two games into the season. After truly exquisite performances against West Ham and Swansea, the Reds look like they are ready to take on anyone. 

In our first two games this season we were 4-0 victors. Last season against Leicester, we managed to win by 3 goals in both league matches! Lets not forget the thrilling encounter at Wembley last season when Zlatan Ibrahimovic's late goal won us the Community Shield. After a disappointing title defence from the Foxes last season, Leicester are now beginning to look a lot more like the side that won the league with Mahrez and Vardy looking sharp and ready to tear defences apart. On the opening day of the season, Leicester ended up falling second-best to Arsenal who won 4-3 in a breathtaking match despite taking a 2-0 lead. In their second game, they won comfortably against Brighton. 

After impressive displays in the two games so far this season, it wouldn't surprise me if Jose Mourinho decided to (once again) select an unchanged line up. In the last two games, every player played their best and proved that they deserve to be starting every week. However, Anthony Martial came on as subs in both games and within 25 minutes on the pitch this season, he already has two goals and an assist to his name. But the question is, who can Mourinho drop to accommodate him? One thing is for certain, whether he starts or comes on as a substitute, he will certainly make an impact on the game. In more bright news, Ashley Young and Luke Shaw both played an hour for the reserves on Monday against Swansea as they edge closer to full fitness. Furthermore, Marcos Rojo returned back to training on Tuesday. 

The key area for Manchester United on Saturday will be the centre of the pitch. This is where the game can be won or lost. So far, in our two previous games, the midfield pairing of Matic and Pogba has been impeccable. With Matic sitting slightly deeper to provide support for the defence in the event of a counter attack, Pogba has been given more freedom to venture forwards and play at his best. We have been try to find out whether Pogba is best on the left of a midfield trio or in a duo. From what we have seen in the last two games, it looks for certain that he is more effective in a due. However we haven't yet come up against a top quality team and we haven't yet been outnumbered in the centre of the park. Let's hope that Matic and Pogba can handle James and Ndidi.

The potential match-winning players on show are Lukaku and Jamie Vardy. Both players have a terrific eye for goal and could be serious threats to the opposing defences. Lukaku has bagged himself three goals in the two games, whilst Vardy managed two, both on the opening day of the season. Despite picking up a slight injury last weekend against Brighton, Jamie Vardy returned to training and was an unused sub in the midweek fixture against Sheffield United in the Carabao Cup on Tuesday. He is expected to start on Saturday and has a good record against Manchester United. Let's hope that Lukaku continues his good form in front of goal and can score in his third consecutive match!

Saturday, 19 August 2017

Swansea City vs Manchester United

After high expectations were set from the game last week, it was always going to be tough for United to perform anywhere near as well. Although we did find it difficult to break down the Swansea defence, once we did, the floodgates opened. Similar to last week, we managed to nick some goals towards the end of the game and the final score was 4-0 again.

The first half was started poorly by United with Swansea dominating the game and creating chances left, right and centre. It looked like a goal was certainly coming for the home side but somehow, they didn't score. Both sides hit the crossbar in quick succession and the game was looking very open. Our biggest chance fell to Marcus Rashford who managed get through to the keeper, but the shot was poor and caught by Fabianski.

On the stroke of half time, we managed to break the deadlock. From a corner, Pogba's bullet header thundered the crossbar and Eric Bailly was able to get to the rebound to score his first United goal. Despite the first half not being a great performance by the reds, we still managed to find a way to take the lead. Swansea will be devastated as in all fairness, they were the better team in the first half.

The second half was the complete opposite. With Manchester United looking most likely to score with persistent crosses into the box, it seemed only a matter of time until the second goal came. The tension kept rising as we knew that we needed a second goal urgently or there was the chance of us dropping points still. That all-important goal came in the 80th minute.

Romelu Lukaku managed to get on the scoresheet once again! Two minutes later, Paul Pogba got the third for United with a great finish. Another two minutes later, it was that man again, Anthony Martial off the bench grabbing a goal. The entertainment is back with United. Another 4 goals for the Red Devils.

It was an extraordinary attacking display again from the men in red. This is the first time we've won back to back games by 4 goals since 2011. Bailly managed to score his first goal for United. Mkhitaryan has now got 4 assists in two games after registering another two today. Lukaku now has 3 goals in two games. Pogba has two goals and an assist in two games. Martial has somehow managed to also get two goals and an assist but in only 25 minutes of football. Our attack is on fire 🔥.

Next week we face Leicester City at Old Trafford. Last season in both fixtures we scored 4 goals in each game. Let's hope we can keep that pattern going. One things for certain, we are more than capable of doing so.

Sunday, 13 August 2017

Manchester United vs West Ham United

The first game of the season was certainly one to remember for United. An exquisite performance by the Red Devils meant that we finish game-week 1 at the top of the Premier League. Two goals from Lukaku and great finishes from Martial and Pogba were enough to secure three points for us along with a clean sheet.

United started the game with intent and controlled the game from start till end. The first goal came in the form of a lightening quick counter attack started by Marcus Rashford who slipped the ball through to Romelu Lukaku who made no mistake in front of goal. A dream debut for our new centre forward.

If the first goal wasn't enough already, Lukaku managed to make it a brace on his debut for his new club. A delightful ball into the box from a free kick by Mkhitaryan was met by the head of Lukaku to double United's lead.

The third goal came from the talented Anthony Martial within 10 minutes of coming on. Again, it was another delightful assist from our Armenian playmaker. The man who was so influential in his first season looks to be on fire and hoping for a better season than last. Despite a reported bid from Tottenham for the French forward, he looks completely unaffected and ready to show his worth.

The fourth and final goal was scored by the worlds second most expensive player, Paul Pogba. His skilful performance was ended with a great finish past Joe Hart. Hopefully this season he will be able to showcase his true talent without the heavy label on his shoulders of being the worlds most expensive player.

The stand out player today for me was Nemanja Matic. He was all over the pitch. Not only was he solid defensively, he pulled out some outstanding skills which nobody knew he had in his locker. Leaving the West Ham players left for dust, he also had the Stratford End singing his name and the stadium dancing to his magical footwork. At points, from up in the stands we couldn't tell if it was Matic or an unusually tall Messi.

Now onto another standout debutant, the Belgian international made a big impact on the Old Trafford crowd (which I was a part of) with his brilliant performance. Everything, from his work-rate to his finishing was perfect. Nobody knew that Lukaku had that much pace, he was leaving the defenders no chance!

I think it's fair to say that every player that started today deserved to start. They each put in 100% effort and nobody put a foot wrong. One things for certain, Mourinho got the tactics perfect today.

Let's hope he gets it right again next week and the players play just as well when we face Swansea away! Oh it feels good to have the Premier League back! 🔴❤️

Friday, 11 August 2017

Manchester United vs West Ham United Match Preview

At last Premier League football is coming back to Old Trafford! Mourinho and his men will be looking for a speedy start as Jose prepares for his second season in charge of Manchester United. All the pre match hype has been about Javier Hernandez and whether he will score against his old club. There's no doubt he was a fan favourite at Old Trafford and he has admitted that if he were to score against us, he's not sure if he'd be able to celebrate. He had an exceptional season last season and is certainly expected to make a big impact at the Olympic Stadium this season. 

Coming into the game, Mourinho has no fresh injury concerns. Our three new signings are expected to make their Premier League debuts. For West Ham, Joe Hart, Zabaleta, Arnautovic and Hernandez are all available for selection. 

Last season while United finished 5th in the league and qualified for the Champions League through their Europa League success, Slaven Bilic's side finished 11th. Both teams will be looking to kick off their 2017/18 campaign with a win. After Arsenal and Leicester put on an entertaining display on Friday, it will be tough for our game to live up to the excitement. Nonetheless, there will be lots of talented players on display and hopefully we can play some good football. 

In our last three games against West Ham we have won 2 and drawn 1. However, three of the last 5 league meetings have ended in draws. We're unbeaten in our last 9 Premier League home games against West Ham (W7 D2). An interesting statistic is that no team has won more opening day Premier League fixtures than us, and nobody has lost more opening day Premier league fixtures than West Ham. 

Let's hope we can start this Premier League season with a win. With very strong competition for the league, three points is vital on the opening day and will set us in good spirits for the games to come. Come on UNITED! 🔴⚽

NOTE: Match report may be slightly delayed after the game as I'll be at Old Trafford. 

Summer Transfers and 2017/18 Season Predictions

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Summer Transfers

With the Premier League kicking off this weekend, there has been a big debate on which team is going to win the league this season. Massive amounts of spending has led to most teams improving their squad and strengthening for the new season. These improvements to squads have made it even harder to predict who will win the league, and even who will finish in the top 4.

Lets start with Arsenal. The Gunners have brought in Sead Kolasinac from Schalke this summer and he already made a great impression when he came on as a sub in the Community Shield. Another addition they made is Alexandre Lacazette from Lyon. The French international has been linked with a move to the Premier League for the last few seasons and he has finally arrived. He is expected to be the first choice striker for Arsenal this season.

Next lets talk about Chelsea. After Manchester United ended their interest in Alvaro Morata with the signing of Lukaku, Chelsea pounced on the opportunity to overspend on a player who was left warming Real Madrid's bench all of last season. Another player they signed was Tiemoue Bakayoko from Monaco along with Antonio Rudiger from Roma. The most notable transfer business for Chelsea is the players they have let go this summer. The sale of Matic to rivals Manchester United is particularly unusual as he is clearly going to be a big boost for the Red Devils. Other departures include Nathan Ake, Juan Cuadrado, Begovic, Terry, Traore, Chalobah and Solanke. Furthermore, Conte told Diego Costa that he was not in his plans for this season so that will be a big blow for the blues.

The most active team this summer in the transfer market has arguably been Everton. The Toffees have been spending like there's no tomorrow this summer. Their most expensive signing has been Jordan Pickford from Sunderland for a record fee of £30 million for the club. Other additions include Michael Keane from Burnley, Davy Klaassen from Ajax and of course Wayne Rooney from Manchester United. They have also been busy selling players, with Romelu Lukaku joining Manchester United for £75 million, Deulofeu to Barcelona and Cleverley to Watford. It is clear from this transfer business that Everton will be hoping to go far in the Europa League this season and improve on their final position in the Premier League.

On the other side of Merseyside, Liverpool have been much less active. Bringing in only Salah (who is a good addition to their already terrifying attack), Robertson and Solanke, Liverpool are yet to improve on their below par defence and central midfield. With some time left in the transfer window, they will be looking to improve their squad in those positions. They have been linked with Virgil van Dijk (who has just handed in his official transfer request) through the whole summer, but there looks like there will be some fierce competition from Chelsea in securing his signature. Another problem Liverpool might have to deal with is losing their best player, Coutinho to Barcelona after PSG signed Neymar. The deal is looking more and more likely.

The highest spenders in the league this season have been Manchester City. Pep Guardiola has now spent more money on his defence in the year he has been at Man City than Bosnia spent on theirs (the country's army). Benjamin Mendy, Bernardo Silva, Kyle Walker, Ederson and Danilo should prove to be great additions to City. Many football pundits have dubbed City to lift the Premier League trophy at the end of the season and that does seem likely. They will surely be very tough to beat and their frightening attack will be hard to stop. However, you never know what could happen in the Premier League...

The biggest team in Manchester have made three new signings to strengthen their squad. Manchester United have signed Romelu Lukaku, Nemanja Matic and Victor Lindelof so far. With four positions all needed to be strengthened, Mourinho has managed to improve three of them with the fourth still looking to be on the cards as United are being closely linked to Danny Rose and Serge Aurier. Jose seems to be content with the players currently at the club as he only let Rooney and Januzaj leave this summer.

The biggest failures in terms of transfers this summer has been Tottenham Hotspur. The London club who looked so strong last season really needed to focus on keeping their players at the clubs and improving their squad depth to account for Champions League football next season. Spurs have signed nobody this summer and have let one of their key players, Kyle Walker leave to a title rival. There is no doubt in my mind that they will suffer this season and fall significantly lower down the table.

Season Predictions

As a Manchester Unite fan, of course I would like to see the trophy be lifted by Mourinho and his men so I left it down to our readers to give their predictions. Although, I don't think I'm getting much of a wide range of fans as most of our readers are Manchester United fans.

My personal favourite prediction came from Oliver. Although this isn't the most likely outcome, I think all United fans can agree that this is the dream.

Michael Carney believes that Chelsea still have what it takes to retain the league title even though they will be fighting in Europe. Also, he is an Everton fan and believes that due to Everton's signings they will still manage to get goals, which is fair enough. Although it may be slightly harder without Lukaku.

My friend Payet Forward has faith that United will do what it takes this season and lift the trophy for the first time since Sir Alex Ferguson left. Let's hope that he's right!

Matthew Hulls who is a Leyton Orient fan has a similar stance to Payet Forward, with the two Manchester clubs battling it out for the top spot. What's interesting is that he believes Conte will be gone by January which is not unrealistic. There has been lots of complaints by fans about Conte's transfers this summer, most notably his decision to let Diego Costa go and downgrade to Morata.

Finally, my predictions for the top 4 are:
1st - Manchester United
2nd - Manchester City
3rd - Liverpool
4th - Arsenal

Let's hope that this season is as exciting as last season and most importantly, United to win the league of course!

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Real Madrid vs Manchester United

Our first competitive game of the season ends with a defeat. An unconvincing performance for most of the game led to Real Madrid lifting the Super Cup trophy. This was not the start we wanted to make to the new season.

The first half was started poorly by Manchester United. Real Madrid were dominating possession and United were finding it hard to get out of their half. Things weren't looking great for United and Real went close to breaking the deadlock early when Casemiro's header hit the crossbar. Less than ten minutes later, Casemiro scored from Carvajal's delivery in behind the United defence. There was however a question of offside for the goal. United slowly started settling into the game towards the end of the first half.

Unfortunately, the second half didn't start as well as we'd hoped. Madrid were again attacking constantly and doubled their lead when Isco played a one-two with Bale before finding the bottom corner of the net. Less than a minute later, Pogba's header was saved by Navas and the rebound was shot over from a Lukaku with a poor effort towards an open goal. The next chance of the game came to Gareth Bale who rattled the crossbar from close range. Immediately after, Matic's shot was parried by Navas and Lukaku's rebound (this time) ended with the ball in the back of the net. The rest of the game followed the pattern of United on the attack and trying to break down the Madrid defence but failing to do so.

The final score ended 2-1 to Real Madrid and if I'm being honest, they deserved to win as they were levels ahead of us. It's fair to say we're still quite far away from where we hoped to be at this stage. We did show glimpses of class but we allowed ourselves to be dominated for most of the game.

Overall, this was a poor performance. If we play like we did today against West Ham on Sunday, we're sure to start the Premier League campaign with a loss. However, we know for a fact that we can play good football and we've got the quality needed to play at the highest level. Let's hope that we see the right United on Sunday!

Sunday, 6 August 2017

Real Madrid vs Manchester United match preview

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After a positive pre season, we come to our first competitive fixture to kick off the 2017/18 season. What better opponents to test ourselves against than the mighty Los Blancos? Coming up against a world class opponent and some of the best players in the world will be a real test for our newly altered Manchester United team. A win could give us a confidence boost and show that we now have what it takes to compete at the highest level. A loss on the other hand would highlight the weaknesses within our squad and show what needs improving. But overall, it's our first chance to win a trophy in this new season.

Manchester United have lifted the Super Cup once after competing for it three times. Our only victory came in 1991 when we beat Red Star Belgrade at Old Trafford. Our next involvement in the final came in 1999 when our treble-winners lost 1-0 to Lazio. In 2008 after our famous win in Moscow over Chelsea, we lost the Super Cup to Zenit St Petersburg. This year we'll be hoping to lift the trophy for the second time in our history and Jose will be hoping to become the second manager after Sir Alex Ferguson to win the trophy at United.

For the game against Real Madrid, unfortunately Jones and Bailly will be suspended. That means that we'll have to play with Smalling and Lindelof as our centre back pairing (if we play 4 at the back). In brighter news, our three new signings are likely to make their competitive debuts for United. Lukaku, Lindelof and Matic are all likely to start so they'll be hoping to win their first trophy with United in their first competitive fixture.
The pre season fixture a few weeks ago against Real Madrid ended with United winning in penalties. However, in our last competitive game against them in 2013, we lost 2-1 in the Champions League Round of 16 2nd leg with Ronaldo on the scoresheet for Real.

Hopefully Jose's men can put in a good performance and secure a win and bring home Mourinho's 4th trophy with United. We know it'll be tough but this is a challenge which we are good enough to win. Come on United!

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Manchester United vs Sampdoria

In our final pre season game before the Super Cup Final, Manchester United face Sampdoria in Dublin. All of the talk surrounding the game was about Matic making his debut for United. He made it into the starting line up and put in a very convincing performance while he was on the pitch.

A slow start to the game was flipped on its head after a poorly directed Blind backpass gave De Gea no choice but to handle the ball. An indirect free kick at the edge of the 6 yard box was scrambled away by United. A swift counter attack from Valencia led to Darmian whipping in a beautiful ball to Mkhitaryan in the box who headed United into a 1-0 lead.

Unfortunately, Mkhitaryan's goal was cancelled out in the 63rd minute. Praet swept home from the edge of the area to level the score line.

After a series of changes by Mourinho, Juan Mata put us back ahead in the 81st minute. Some great footwork on the left from Anthony Martial ended with Mata putting the ball in the back of the net with a first time finish. Towards the end of the game a few more chances fell our way but Herrera and Rashford's shots were well saved. The game finished 2-1 to United.

So that's the pre season fixtures finished now. 6 wins out of 7 games is a good record but the most important thing is the players regaining fitness and working well together ahead of the new season. Our three new signings have had a chance to play with their new teammates and they've all settled in well. The aim is to hit the ground running in the Premier League and win our first few games.

Before we look to the Premier League, we have the all-important fixture against Real Madrid in the Super Cup Final on the 8th of August. This will be our first competitive fixture of the season and what better way to start a new season than with a trophy and a win over the reigning champions of Europe. After beating them in penalties in the International Champions Cup, they will be more determined than ever to snatch a trophy from us. Hopefully the Red Devils can do enough and add to our trophy cabinet.